Testing of Beta Technologies Alia eVTOL aircraft by the US Air Force is to begin after the first airworthiness approval for a manned electric aircraft was awarded to the company.
The Alia is an eVTOL aircraft that can carry six people up to 290 miles (460km) and has a cruise speed of 170mph (270km/h). The aircraft has been in development since 2017 and has first customer deliveries scheduled for 2024.
The airworthiness award from the US Air Force is the latest milestone in Beta’s test program after it entered its next phase of flight testing. The next step will see a contract signed in June which will give the US Air Force access to the Alia and eVTOL flight simulators located in Washington, D.C. and Springfield, Ohio.
The US Air Force’s approval involved its personnel and experts evaluating the aircraft’s design and maintenance requirements along with the company’s operations and flight test plans.
Beta Technologies test pilot Camron Guthrie said, “US Air Force engineers spent more than a year examining the Alia aircraft, evaluating its design and flight capabilities against the demanding MIL-HDBK-516C standard,”
The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) will test the Alia eVTOL under its Agility Prime “flying car” technology program. AFRL engineers will first use their equipment and facilities to conduct structural testing of the Alia aircraft.
During March an Alia test aircraft completed an interstate flight Beta’s test facility at an airport in Plattsburgh, New York to the company’s headquarters near Burlington International Airport, Vermont.
The same month, Beta’s flight test program set a new record for range and altitude for Alia, of 150 miles (240km) and 8,000ft.
Kyle Clark, Beta’s founder and CEO said, “Electric aviation is a National Security priority and fortunately this was recognized early by the Air Force. The speed and efficiency of the Air Force Agility Prime program to support sustainable electric aviation has been remarkable.
“The people and expertise that the Air Force has brought to the electric aviation industry and specifically our Alia program is accelerating the development of incredibly capable, safe and reliable aircraft.”
Beta’s simulation and training facilities will enable Air Force pilots and engineers to rehearse and test the Alia aircraft in a variety of potential mission sets and scenarios. The advanced urban air mobility technology simulators are physics based and include weather, emergency handling, and mission scenarios with multiple aircraft.
Beta has recently added to its customer list agreements with urban air mobility provider Blade and delivery firm UPS for Alia and charging stations.